Friday, September 18, 2015
The time for Joplin to drop Bright Futures is now
None of those schools are abandoning children in need. Their activities will remain the same. They will just be done under different names.
Webb City and East Newton have led the way.
Now it is time for the Joplin R-8 School District to follow suit and end this remaining connection to the recently concluded tenure of former Superintendent C. J. Huff.
The good works can continue. The snack packs can be prepared for children. If a child needs a coat, or a pair of shoes, the word can still go out and that need can be met within 24 hours. The basic premise of Bright Futures has always been a good one.
These things can and should continue.
What needs to end is the idea that we need a bloated bureaucracy and a $700,000 budget to do what other school districts are doing with part-time and volunteer help.
All of the extra money, donated or not, has led to an expansion of services that has seen Bright Futures Joplin paying electric bills and rent for students, actions that seem questionable for a school district.
The basic problem with Bright Futures is that it has become too firmly associated with the toxic presence that C. J. Huff has become. His recent hiring as a paid consultant for Bright Futures USA was opposed by Webb City Superintendent Tony Rossetti, and with good reason.
State taxpayers are paying $150,000 this year for BFUSA and most of that amount is going to salaries for Huff, Executive Director Kim Vann, and other employees. What are the taxpayers getting for that money? An organization that simply wants to keep expanding, pulling in $2,500 from the schools that enroll and then thousands of dollars from schools to send personnel to the annual Bright Futures USA Conference at Missouri Southern State University.
While the BFUSA training has been helpful to schools that have joined Bright Futures, there has never been a need for an umbrella organization to do this. As I noted earlier, the Bright Futures blueprint of meeting student needs, using social media, and working with the business, civic, and faith-based communities, can be printed on one page with room left over.
An annual workshop to share ideas on how to provide for students in need is not a bad idea, but it does not need to be an annual orgy of testimony and praise for the Bright Futures brand.
Quite simply, the basic Bright Futures idea needs to be preserved.. The self-congratulatory monument to C. J. Huff that it has become needs to be eliminated immediately.
In the Joplin R-8 School District, Bright Futures has operated as a separate fiefdom, at times usurping the role of educators and any criticism of the organization has been met with anguished cries about how much the critics hate children.
I have never met any critic of Bright Futures who had animosity toward children. The criticism has always been directed at what started out as a wonderful idea and ended up being corrupted when it became more about one person and the expansion of one organization than an effort to quickly the meet the needs of children.
The time for Joplin to sever ties with Bright Futures is now.